Tag Archives: Family Synod

“The Joy of Love”: Also for Lesbian and Gay Catholics?

At first reading, many lesbian and gay Catholics could be disappointed with Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love). There’s little enough about us to start with, and what there is, seems to do no more than restate the familiar but badly neglected platitudes about “respect”, and the need to avoid violence and persecution. Right up front in its opening pages, the document restates the mantra of the family as consisting of one man and one women, and children – and the purpose of marriage as intertwined with procreation. Later, there is yet again, a firm restatement of opposition to gay marriage. Above all, there is absolutely no hint of any change in the hurtful established Catholic doctrines on sexuality.

A handout picture released by the Vatican press office show Pope Francis (C) chairing an extraordinary synod of nearly 200 senior clerics in the Synod Aula at the Vatican on October 6, 2014. Pope Francis issued a strong signal of support for reform of the Catholic Church's approach to marriage, cohabitation and divorce as bishops gathered for a landmark review of teaching on the family. Thorny theological questions such as whether divorced and remarried believers should be able to receive communion will dominate two weeks of closed-door discussions set to pit conservative clerics against reformists. AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ==OSSERVATORE ROMANO/AFP/Getty Images

Closer examination however, reveals some cause for optimism, certainly in the longer term. Continue reading “The Joy of Love”: Also for Lesbian and Gay Catholics?

Amoris Laetitia – Goodbye to “Objectively Disordered”?

During the two sessions of the family synod, there were many reports of an emerging consensus among the bishops of a need to move away from the hurtful language of the past, concerning lesbian and gay people, and matters of same-sex orientation. By the time of the 2015 synod assembly, even the archconservative Charles Chaput came to acknowledge that the term “objectively disordered” had, in his words, “outlived its usefulness”.  (For others of course, such words never had any usefulness, but were downright offensive and intensely hurtful).  I’m pleased to report that while the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love) has little enough to say specifically about lesbian and gay people, there is no reference at all to “objectively disordered”.  I think we can take it that this disordered language has now been banished, for ever.

Continue reading Amoris Laetitia – Goodbye to “Objectively Disordered”?

“The Joy of Love”: World-wide Press Conferences?

In an unusual move, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has asked bishops around the world to host their own press conferences for the release of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of the Family). He has asked that where possible, these should be held on the same day as the Rome presentation, Friday April 8th, and should feature an expert on family ministry, a theologian, or a (married?) couple who are capable of getting through to a wide audience.

ciric-260632_0_730_485 (1)
On St Valentine’s Day, Pope Francis and Cardinal Paglia greet an engaged couple.

The news was reported yesterday by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.  Here follows my free English translation, of the key paragraphs:

The Pontifical Council for the Family has asked all bishops to prepare a press conference for the day of publication of the Apostolic Exhortation in response to the Synod on the family.

Continue reading “The Joy of Love”: World-wide Press Conferences?

Waiting for Francis – Divorced and Remarried, Same-Sex Couples

As we wait for Pope Francis’ formal response to the bishops’ synod “Assembly on Marriage and Family”, it’s worth looking back and taking stock.

Many lgbt Catholics voiced disappointment with the assembly proceedings and report, because they had so little to say about same-sex relationships. Others saw this relative silence as a positive sign, concluding from it that the bishops realize that the whole issue of homosexuality requires deeper study. However, there is at least one reason why the report, when it comes, will be worth close attention from gay Catholics: Francis’ conclusions on divorce will have resonance for us, too. Continue reading Waiting for Francis – Divorced and Remarried, Same-Sex Couples

German Bishops Ask Homosexuals for Forgiveness

It won’t be possible to evaluate the synod Assembly on the Family until it’s all over, and Pope Francis has given his own judgement, but buried in the detail are some fascinating titbits. Here’s one that must not be overlooked, from the small-group report of the German bishops: they acknowledge the hurt caused by pastoral practice to “homosexually oriented people” and other groups, and offer an historic apology.

An dieser Stelle war uns ein Bekenntnis wichtig: Im falsch verstandenen Bemühen, die kirchliche Lehre hochzuhalten, kam es in der Pastoral immer wieder zu harten und unbarmherzigen Haltungen, die Leid über Menschen gebracht haben, insbesondere über ledige Mütter und außerehelich geborene Kinder, über Menschen in vorehelichen und nichtehelichen Lebensgemeinschaften, über homosexuelle orientierte Menschen und über Geschiedene und Wiederverheiratete. Als Bischöfe unserer Kirche bitten wir diese Menschen um Verzeihung.

 
At this point a confession is important for us: In a false interpretation of the attempt to uphold the doctrine of the church, it frequently happened that hard and merciless attitudes appeared in pastoral  ministry, that has brought suffering to people, especially to unmarried mothers and children born outside of marriage, for people living in premarital and non-marital cohabitation, for homosexually oriented people and for divorced and remarried people. As Bishops of our Church we are asking these people for forgiveness.
This is huge.
For some people in North America and Western Europe, the most notable harm done by the Church to LGBT people has been the opposition to marriage equality, and in some case the resultant exclusion of married gay men and lesbians from church employment or pastoral ministry. In fact, the extent of the harm is far greater. In Africa and in history, this has included active persecution, criminalization, and death. Even in Europe and North America, it can remain a major contributing factor to adolescent suicide and homelessness.
Previous popes have issued apologies to the Jews fo r inciting anti-Semitism, and to Muslims for the crusades. Pope Francis has apologized to the indigenous people of South America for the colonial imposition of European ideology and destruction of cultural patterns. What that apology did not acknowledge, was that the colonial ideology that was imposed, included Western European understanding of sex, gender and family structure, with the resultant active persecution of all those whose sexual or gender behaviour did not fit those European norms.
Just as the Catholic Church has formally apologized for the historic harm done to the Jewish and Muslim communities, to the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, Africa and Asia, and for the medieval persecution of religious dissidents, an apology is due to the LGBT community for the persecution in so many ways, large and small, in history and to the present day.
This is the first such apology I have seen from any significant group of Catholic bishops. I applaud the German bishops for their courage and honesty.

A Modest Proposal…..

A quotable quote on Facebook, referring to a Tablet blog post by Massimo Fagioli on the Family Synod:

Excellent article on the meaning of the synod on the family. However I would modify the proposal of Kaspar and suggest that certain bishops be prohibited from receiving the sacraments until they have passed through a penitential process designed by the faithful of their diocese. “The Instrumentum showed that there is broad agreement on several issues, especially on Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal that, in certain cases, divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive the sacraments following “a journey of reconciliation or penance, under the auspices of the local bishop”.”

 

Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

First, it has to be said that same-sex oriented people have the right, in their lives – and that includes, too, the fact that like all people, they are sexual beings – to be recognized.

– moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff

Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.
Eberhard Schockenhoff, Theologe und stellvertretender Vorsitzender im Deutschen Ethikrat, spricht am 19. Mai 2015 in München.

Finally, an influential, mainstream Catholic theologian has faced the elephant in the room. More and more cardinals, bishops and others in the Catholic church have come to accept that same – sex couples deserve to have legal recognition of their relationships. Some have said so publicly, many more now agree, but are keeping their opinions firmly to themselves. Some have said they see positive value in such civil unions, others are more reluctant, seeing them merely as something to be accepted as a lesser evil than full marriage. But in all the many observations on the subject I have seen, there’s one crucial point no-one has yet dared mention publicly: can the Church accept that couples in such same – sex legal, committed and loving relationships, may express their love sexually?

The German moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff has, in effect, answered with a clear “yes”. He’s done so not in so many words, but that is the clear implication of his words, quoted above. Continue reading Moral Theologian: Same – Sex Couples Deserve Sexual Expression of Their Love

European Bishops Discuss Improved LGBT, Divorced Ministry

In welcome news from Europe, Le Figaro has reported on a Rome meeting of cardinals, bishops and lay theologians to discuss improved methods of pastoral ministry for homosexuals and those who have divorced and remarried. The meeting was called by the three presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, France and Switzerland – including Germany’s Cardinal Marx, who is in Pope Francis’ inner circle of 9 cardinal advisors.

eveques-et-cardinaux

The full report is behind a Figaro paywall, but Liberation and other sources are carrying a useful (French) summary from AFP, loosely translated below:  Continue reading European Bishops Discuss Improved LGBT, Divorced Ministry

Contraception and the Synod.

A  surprise feature of the family synod last October, was the prominent place given to language about LGBT people in the Church.  That was welcome – and is likely to feature even more prominently in the main synod, this year.

Equally surprising, but less welcome, was the absence of any discussion about contraception. This is important. The insistence that every sexual act must be open to procreation underpins so much of the rest of Vatican sexual doctrine, and most specifically, the steadfast opposition to same – sex loving relationships.  Remove the cornerstone of opposition to contraception, it becomes far more difficult for the institutional Church to justify its opposition to our relationships.

I was expecting the question of contraception to be central to the discussions in Rome last October, but that was not to be. Instead, this central issue was met by – deafening silence.  Yet we know, that the vast majority of Catholics the world over, simply reject Vatican teaching on this core issue. A cross – cultural survey before the last synod, found that only two of the fifteen countries surveyed, agreed with the Vatican position, and that by only narrow majorities, In contrast, in many countries surveyed, opposition was overwhelming.

The acceptance by the synod of the institutional view can be attributed to two main causes: in the first instance, because the limited number of lay married couples invited to the synod, were there because of their active support for this view. Contrary thoughts were simply excluded.

The second cause can be summed up in a word, encapsulated in this assessment from Commonweal:     Hypocrisy!

Perhaps the most important moment of last October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family occured at its very beginning—when Pope Francis insisted that “speaking honestly” was the bishops’ basic responsibility: No topics or viewpoints should be out of bounds. “It is necessary to say all that, in the Lord, one feels the need to say: without polite deference, without hesitation.”

I doubt that everyone present was able to live up to that plea. For not a few bishops, self-censorship has become second nature, especially when speaking publicly with other bishops, and infinitely so when in the earshot of the pope.

Fortunately, that was not true in many cases, or the synod would not have made headlines with the several highly controversial topics served up and batted back and forth: reception of Communion by the divorced-and-remarried, cohabitation, even same-sex relationships. But could engrained inhibition have accounted for the glaring gap in the synod’s work? I refer to the apparent lack of attention to the question of contraception. Why did the synod appear to treat so perfunctorily the issue that was, and is, the starting point for the unraveling of Catholic confidence in the church’s sexual ethics and even its credibility about marriage? To which, of course, one could add further questions about this baffling silence: Does it even matter? And if it does matter, are there grounds for hoping that the bishops who will be gathering in Rome next fall to complete the synod’s work can do better?

A lot rests on the answers to these questions. A synod that grabs headlines about remarried or cohabiting or same-sex Catholic couples but says nothing fresh about the spectacularly obvious rift between official teaching and actual behavior in Catholic married life is an invitation to cynicism. It could prove to be a crucial test of Pope Francis’s papacy.

full anaysis at Commonweal Magazine.

Swiss Catholics Call for Blessings for Same-sex Partnerships

In a remarkable document published by the Swiss Bishops Conference, it is noted that in Switzerland, there is strong support for the recognition of same – sex relationships, including blessings of such partnerships.

Following a comprehensive national consultation with the nation’s Catholics, in which more than 6000 people participated, the Swiss Catholic bishops have reported that Swiss Catholics want to see blessings for same – sex partnerships, and also a change in the teaching on communion for divorced and remarried people.

Swiss consultation

Continue reading Swiss Catholics Call for Blessings for Same-sex Partnerships